Why Did US Govt Classify “African-Americans” As Colored, Mulatto, Black Or Slave As Their Race?

In today’s world, millions of Aborigines of American are settling for a complex description of their historical ethnicity, based solely on the fictitious thoughts of particular key individuals, who were assigned with the responsibility of allegedly documenting a resident’s race, color and genealogy. 

These individuals were entitled as Census enumerators, also known as Census Takers, which are federal government unsupervised employees who allegedly went from town to town, city to city and door to door, deciding who was of what race and documented the families they meet as such. 

The Census enumerators had a mammoth amount of influence on our genealogy records still til this very day. 

In fact, what they informally documented on a sheet of paper was literally based on their mere individual opinions, and then later deemed as official records that were sacrosanct (sacro-saint), leading to hundreds of years of the Census Takers ideas of race being considered as official historical records of information. 

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Make note of this very important fact – These census takers were provided instructions and they recorded the ethnic category of various family members based on Their perception of the family when they visited. 

So if you are attempting to find and interpret data about your family’s history, these results can be confusing, especially if in one census they are deemed as “all other free” persons or “slaves” and then “free persons of color” then “Mulatto” and even “Black”. 

In most early census years, there were no categories for Indian at all, while in others, free people of color were recorded in one group. 

Most Census of today’s society are skipping the classification of race all together, leaving that particular portion blank for people of light to mid and dark brown skin complexion. 

So where your family fell into a race classification category was solely up to the individual census taker of that particular area, not your family members. 

The complexity of Census records are in fact outrageously discombobulating, but still very utilitarian for research purposes and enthralling none the less. 


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Brief History of The 1790 Census 

In the early year of 1790, Congress assigned the full responsibility of census taking to the marshals of the US judicial districts, under an act that governed census taking through the years of 1790 to 1840. 

It was then called the 1790 Census Act having been signed by then President George Washington, Vice President John Adams and Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg on March 1, 1790.  

During this time period, there were many open political debates about who should be counted and should slaves be counted as equal to the same as free whites. 

There was an economic structure already in place to this entire governmental construct, that was not limited to taxation, which sparked the debate with the Northerners wanting slaves to be counted as the equivalent of free whites and the Southerners did not. 

Eventually there was a compromise established and August 2, 1790 marked the date of the official Census Day. 

According to the Census Bureau, the 1790 law required that (quote) – 

“every household be visited, that completed census schedules be posted in “two of the most public places within [each jurisdiction], there to remain for the inspection of all concerned…” and that “the aggregate amount of each description of persons” for every district be transmitted to the president.”

Census enumerators were required to record a total of six inquiries in the 1790 Census, calling for the names of the head of the family and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions:

  • Free White males 16 years and older
  • Free White males under 16 years old
  • Free White females 
  • “All other free”
  • “Slaves” (how many) 

Not to exclude some of the names of towns and/or districts of residence were recorded as well. 

The marshals were instructed to identify free white males by age brackets. It was noted that this tactic was designed to determine the country’s industrial and military capabilities. 

Whomever refused to answer the enumerator’s questions were assessed a hefty twenty-five dollar fine… 

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